With the holidays looming near, now is a better time than any to exercise our good will. Whether it is buying mom a Nintendo Wii or helping an old lady cross the street, there are countless ways we can accumulate good karma.
Often, we think of doing something nice as a rarity. Most people don’t seem to do it often and we reciprocate by not doing anything either. It is only during these strange times of holiday cheer that we begin to feel comfortable enough to actively spread love and happiness. Let us maintain this positive momentum for the following 364 days of the year as well. For any time of the year, here are some ideas that I find most important to consider whenever we are giving gifts or doing someone else a favor:
1. Have Their Interests In Mind
This may seem obvious but sometimes we can get caught in the trap of buying something that we would enjoy, while ignoring the interests of the person who we are giving the gift too. Of course, it is not always easy to know what someone else may want. We can try to overcome this by putting our self in someone’s shoes, or asking like-minded people what a good present might be. If you are trying to find something for a 6 year old boy, then you can ask other 6 year old boys. Similarly, if you know someone who is an avid golfer, then you can ask other avid golfers what a good brand of new clubs might be.
2. Let It Be From The Good Of Your Heart
All too often, and especially during the holiday season, we do “nice” things for people out of necessity or obligation. It is this kind of mentality that can ruin what would otherwise be a joyful celebration. It is much nicer and much more fun if we actually do others favors out of the goodness of our heart, and not out of some unhealthy and ill-defined obligation. Find the desire in yourself to make others happy, and by acting on these desires, you will find that you too will become much more happier and satisfied.
3. Make It Meaningful
If you excel at the first two intentions then this one often comes naturally, but it is worth pointing out anyway: make your favors and gifts as meaningful as possible. There is usually no extra financial burden to doing something with a little bit of meaning, something that shows you put in the time and thought into making a good gesture. A meaningful gift is one that will evoke a strong sense of appreciation in the recipient. Something that brightens the person’s day and makes life worth living. You also want to avoid gifts purely based on novelty or “quick highs,” and instead focus on things that will continue to have value over time.
4. Don’t Expect Anything In Return
If you expect something in return for your favors then you are limiting the magic of your actions. A true act of kindness is not dependent on any reciprocation. The act of giving in itself is all that is needed to experience pleasure and happiness. If we expect something in return, but we don’t get it, we may conclude that our actions were for nothing, but that isn’t the goal of giving to others, is it? It is probably for the best that we diminish any expectations we may have in getting something in return for our efforts. This doesn’t mean we should be shocked if someone reciprocates a good deed, but it shouldn’t be dependent on our ability to exercise kindness.
5. Feel Proud Of What You’ve Done
Often we get immediate gratification after doing something kind for another. It simply feels good to make others feel good. But some like to suppress these feelings. Perhaps it is because they define altruism through “self-sacrifice,” and therefore, much like the story of Jesus dying for our sins, they feel that an act of kindness must be at the expense of our own life, happiness or well-being. I wish to dispel this notion. It is of utmost importance that we feel good when providing for others. If we can exercise this will, if we allow ourselves to feel good for our good deeds, then we are more motivated to continue these actions of kindness in the future. Be proud of your noble efforts! Be selfishly generous.
I hope this post provides some good food for thought for the next time you are intending to help another. All acts out of kindness are commendable, but if we can accept some of these ideas, and raise our consciousness regarding what it means to be giving, then we can bring our kindness to the next level.